If an Israeli shoe fits, wear it: Another boycott of Israel goods backfires, this time in Montreal, where several politicians have made it a point to buy Israeli-made shoes at store picketed by a “rights” group and an Iranian-born Canadian legislator.
The “buy-cott” is timely for Jews in the French-speaking city, where the Jewish community has vowed to continue routine despite Sunday’s anti-Semitic vandalism at four synagogues and a Jewish school. Police are investigating but have not yet declared the attacks as hate crimes.
The controversy over Israeli-made shoes kicked off several weeks ago at the Le Marcheur store, located on the popular St. Denise Street in downtown Montreal. Shoe store owner Yves Archambault is not Jewish but insists he has the right to sell whatever shoes he wants, and he wants the Quebec legislature to end the picketing outside his storefront.
“There is no one who will tell me what I will sell in my store,” he told the Montreal Gazette.
One person who is trying to tell Archambault what he can sell is Iranian-born Quebec legislator Amir Khadir, who joined the protesters. He is a popular left-wing Quebec politician who supports pro-Hamas activist George Galloway, a former British Member of Parliament. His Viva Palestina organization raises money for Hamas, which the United States officially designates as an illegal terrorist organization.
The picketing has attracted boycott opponents, including Quebec politicians from all stripes who support Archambault’s right to sell BeautiFeel shoes, made in a factory in metropolitan Tel Aviv.
One Canadian legislator, Marlene Jennings from Montreal, made a special trip to the store and walked out with a pair of new Israeli-made shoes, which she told the Gazette were “gorgeous.”
She added, “Israel is a democracy. The shoes that are being sold are being produced legally in Israel, imported into Canada legally and being sold at Le Marcheur legally.” Other politicians joined more than 150 people on Saturday who made it a point to buy shoes at Archambault’s store on St. Denis Street, which leftists said should be an ”Israeli Apartheid-Free Zone.”
Most of Quebec’s media criticized the boycott and Khadir’s support, but one Montreal resident said the boycott was a great thing for Israel.
“I believe that Amir Khadir and his friends from PAJU are paid by the Israeli consulate to promote Israeli products,” Nicole Allio wrote the Gazette. "Every time there is a demonstration against Israeli products, they sell out fast and shop owners rejoice!"
“Last year, the Bay sold all its Ahava products in two days. This Christmas, Montreal [is] now aware that Beauti-feel shoes are both comfortable and fashionable, thanks to a promotion campaign worth more than $1 million.”
The worldwide effort to boycott products from Ahava, which has its headquarters at a kibbutz near the Dead Sea, suffered another setback this week. John Lewis, one of Britain’s largest retailers, emphatically denied claims by the Palestine Solitary Campaign that its stores had stopped carrying Ahava products because of the boycott.
Company officials insisted the decision to stop selling Ahava products was a business decision and unrelated to politics. In Canada, the Hudson’s Bay Company in Toronto assured the Jewish community it still was selling Ahava products.
It issued a special announcement specifying that it will never succumb to political pressure not to sell products. The chairman of the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy commented that the statement represents a “resounding – indeed embarrassing – defeat” for anti-Israel boycotters.